AXA Real Estate sees through the trees

AXA Real Estate has made its first foreign forest acquisition, buying three estates in Finland.

The investment manager paid €11.2m ($12.5m) for the assets, which cover 3,700 hectares.

The estates were bought for AXA Insurance from forestry company UPM, which will maintain its role as asset manager.

Christophe Lebrun, head of forest investment, said investor appetite for alternative asset classes had seen a “marked increase in recent years”, with demand for strong and sustainable returns.

“As a sector, forestry is underpinned by robust economic fundamentals,” he said.

The sector was, he added, a “safe-haven investment”, with “resilience to crisis”.

AXA said that, as part of its alternatives investment strategy, it was looking to grow its forestry portfolio for clients, targeting Western Europe and the Nordics.

The move into Finland by AXA Real Estate is, it said, part of a strategy to diversify into countries where forestry-related industries account for a significant proportion of GDP.

AXA Real Estate’s forestry assets under management total around €100m, comprising more than 17,600 hectares.

Globally, the 1.2bn hectare timber market is worth an estimated €600bn, the investment manager said.

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